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What It’s Like to Open the Cannes Film Festival As a First-Time Actor

What It's Like to Open the Cannes Film Festival As a First-Time Actor

READ MORE: Cannes Review: The First Great Discovery of 2015 is Rod Paradot in Emmanuelle Bercot’s ‘Standing Tall’

When Indiewire met French actor Rod Paradot, the first major breakout of the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, he immediately confessed that he hadn’t gotten get a wink of sleep. That didn’t come as much of a surprise considering his first film, “Standing Tall,” written and directed by Emmanuelle Bercot, opened the festival on Wednesday night. 

In the bruising drama, Paradot, who had never acted before in his life, gives a star-making turn as Malony, a deeply troubled 15-year-old who comes from an equally troubled home. French icon Catherine Deneuve plays a judge committed to straightening out his act. In Indiewire’s review of “Standing Tall,” Eric Kohn praised the young actor’s “ability to convey [Malony’s] extreme attitude,” and that Paradot’s performance “keeps ‘Standing Tall’ engaging from start to finish.” “While various adults squabble over the best way to handle his situation,” Kohn wrote, “he’s often his own worst enemy, at one point blowing an opportunity to get into school by tearing apart a principal’s office during their interrogation session. Throwing fits at every hint of authority in his presence, Malony’s time bomb quality endows the proceedings with a recurring suspense emboldened in Paradot’s outstanding performance.”

Below, the actor, who was discovered outside of his high school school by a casting director, opens up about his Cannes experience and working alongside the legendary Deneuve.

I’ve always made me people laugh. But I never thought I’d have the chance to make a movie! It’s something that just happened to me. It arrived out of the blue. I was at school taking my courses and I got offered this role. It’s crazy.

My family was just honored I was making a movie with Catherine Deneuve. It’s something I’ll never forget. It’s a job that appeals to me greatly. Not just being an actor, but to send a message to people. There’s something beautiful about the film. It speaks to everyone. I want to do everything in my power to continue to work at this capacity. It really appeals to me.

Everyone [on set] made me feel at ease, even if I was a bit stressed at the beginning. I had never acted before! But the shoot went really smoothy. We were all a big family on set.

It’s true that some nights when I got home after shooting, I couldn’t shake the character. Some scenes really touched me. At the end it was difficult to say bye to him. It was tough to let go and pretend he didn’t touch me.

I had goosebumps when the movie ended [at the premiere]. I was literally trembling and I couldn’t stop crying. There’s no words to describe the feeling I had last night. This never happens. It’s just been amazing. It was a wonderful moment I’ll never forget. I’ve never been so emotional in my entire life.

Catherine Deneuve didn’t give me much advice before coming to Cannes. She just said to be myself, not get a big head and live in the moment of this magic. It really is magic. 

My mom was with me at the premiere. But I hardly saw her! I watched the film with her, but after dinner I didn’t see her. I did my own thing [laughs]. I think she really took the film to heart.

Every actor brings their own baggage to their work. We have all lived our own lives; our lives gives us tools to play with to interpret other people’s stories. We all have our highs and our lows. My life experience certainly helped me with this movie.

Malony was hard to tap into at times, but I never judged him. When you’re cast in a role, you have to defend the person’s actions in order to play them. I sensed a lot of love behind Malony’s violence. I adored playing him.

I don’t want to get a big head so I don’t take the good reviews to heart. If my head blows up, I’ll lose myself. I really want to stay “me.” I’ll do that by keeping focused on the job. You can’t buy into the buzz. I’m still scared it could happen to me.

You should know that I’m not really familiar with actors’ names. Before I made this movie, when I watched movies I could distinguish faces, but I never recognized faces. It’s a shame now, but the names will come to me slowly.

I’d work in the U.S. if it becomes possible and I like the script. But first I’d have to learn how to speak in English.

READ MORE: Cannes Opens with Emmanuelle Bercot’s ‘Standing Tall’: ‘I’m not a minority’

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